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Laguna Beach

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There are solutions to the short term lodging challenges

Thanks to the City staff, appointed and elected Laguna Beach officials, and all those involved for all the time and effort spent developing for Laguna a fair, balanced, and equitable approach to the issue of short term lodging.

After all that effort, is must be frustrating that late in the day at its hearing last Thursday, after hours of detailed deliberations over a few parking spaces in Malibu and old pipes at Playa Vista, the Coastal Commission announced that they only had the room until 7:00PM and that the hearing on Laguna’s adopted ordinance would be constrained by that time limit.

The result was short shrift given to all sides in a hurry-up hearing of Laguna’s request for certification of an amendment to its Local Coastal Plan incorporating the short-term lodging ordinance the City has adopted unanimously after many months of and thousands of hours of citizen and City debate.  (And not that many issues in Laguna result in unanimous opinions.)  Whether a more extensive hearing of an issue with widespread consequences for many communities throughout California would have led to a better decision is debatable, but what is not debatable is the appropriateness, or actually lack thereof, of the manner in which the hearing was held.

While most Californians understand the mission of the Coastal Act is to assure there are no gates or fences impeding physical coastal access, the current Coastal Commission seems to be embarking on its own social engineering mission, 1) aggressively broadening its scope by stretching definitions and 2) imposing unfunded mandates on local communities.

Its current efforts to reinterpret the word “access” as more than physical access to include a requirement that local communities provide unlimited affordable vacation accommodations to anyone who wants a day at any specific beach of the visitor’s choosing at any time of their choosing at a price the visitor can afford reflects both these issues.  The stretch of the definition is obvious. 

An unfunded mandate is a requirement by one level of government that another level of government perform certain actions with no funds provided to do so.  In this case, the state requires cities to do something costly and requires the city to absorb the cost.  That the Coastal Commission is doing this to local communities is less obvious, but no less consequential.

While visitors bring additional revenue to a community, visitors also bring additional cost. The problem is, in Laguna’s case, the additional cost far exceeds the additional revenue. Because Laguna graciously hosts so many visitors annually, compared to other cities in California with our population, the cost to run the government of the City of Laguna Beach is roughly three times the cost to run cities of similar size with little or no visitor impact. The shortage is made up by the residents with funds paid by local residents that should be used for local resident needs that are instead diverted to cover the extra costs due to visitors.

There are solutions - -two of which are:  The State of California Coastal Commission can rein back in its overreach and work for reasonable balance between visitors and residents. And the State of California can provide the funds to the local communities that will cover the additional costs resulting from the state’s requirements. By the way, that number – the shortage -- is about $25,000,000 per year or something like $2,000 per year per Laguna household.

John Thomas

Laguna Beach

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Obituary

Steven P. Duncan

April 4, 1954 – December 15, 2017

Steven Paul Duncan passed away Friday, December 15, 2017, at the age of sixty three surrounded by his entire family. He is survived by his wife Anne, his four children, Madison, Riley, Jamie, and Liam, his very soon to be son-in-law Graham Harris, and his mischievous cattle dog, Marley.  

Born in London, England and raised back and forth between Geneva, Kentucky and California, Steve first moved to Laguna Beach in 1962 with his mother, Betty and his grandparents Emily and Will Cowie. The family later opened the Horseshoe Cafe in downtown Laguna Beach. A graduate of Laguna Beach High School and University of California Irvine, he earned his JD from the University of San Diego in 1986 and proceeded to run his own practice in Laguna Beach as a plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyer.  

Steve lived a life as full as his booming laugh. He was cultured, irreverent, and the sharpest of wits. He was an avid tennis player, surfer, and sailor in his younger years. Steve loved the time he spent ranching and co-owning a dairy calf business. He also loved playing—or as he would say, “trying to play”—the guitar and listening to opera, show tunes, and the Appalachian music his Kentucky grandmother used to sing.  

More than anything, he loved his family. Steve refused to let the harshness of his earlier years take his goodness, and worked hard every day to change the trajectory of that life for his children. With a heart even bigger than his personality, Steve welcomed any and all into the warm embrace of his family and modeled integrity through his words and actions. Of all of Steve’s accomplishments and adventures, nothing brought him greater pride than his wife and children, whose compassion, humanity, and humor will carry his legacy.

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Obituary

Ben Rogers

January 27, 1994 – December 13, 2017

Ben Rogers passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of December 13.  

Ben was the light of all our lives, full of a deep kindness towards all, a generous spirit, and a light-hearted presence. Many have shared how Ben would encourage them, and how much he was looking forward to the future. He touched many.  

He and his sister Lily were born in Newtown Connecticut one frozen winter night, moved to Grosse Pointe Farms Michigan at age three, then to Laguna Beach when four.  Ben grew up a local boy, attending the Presbyterian preschool, TOW Elementary, Thurston and the High School. He was an Indian Guide, a Scout, played soccer, but most of all LOVED playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club and anywhere, really.

His first job was delivering the Laguna Beach Indy in the Mystic Hills neighborhood. He studied Kempo Karate for eight years and also competed at the County level in Track and Field in the Hurdles. 

He attended the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad and was able to march in the National Memorial Day parade in Washington DC in 2011, playing the snare drum.

Ben attended the University of Arizona, and was planning to finish up at Cal State San Marcos in the fall.  

He is survived by his parents, Kate and Jim, his twin Lily, his brother Will, his step-sister Sara, and also his beloved dogs Gracie and Coco.

A memorial service is planned at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 30 at 10 a.m. All are welcome to come remember and celebrate Ben.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ben’s name to the ASPCA.

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No soul in concrete stairs at Thalia

Why is it [that] each project taken on by the Corps of Engineers, when finished, looks like something built by the Corps of Engineers?  No soul!  Couldn’t they use river rock or flagstone or something that is not concrete?

Robert Story

Laguna Beach

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Hotel Laguna is in desperate need of renovation

I have followed the continuing saga of the Hotel Laguna and have a few comments. First of all, a lawsuit seeking “financial restitution” truly seems without merit (no pun intended).

Regarding the hotel name, although Mrs. Andersen says it’s trademarked, photos from the 1930s show that the name has been in use since the beginning. I’m not an attorney, but isn’t there such a thing as public domain?

The Andersens operated the property for 30 years and never did a significant renovation. The entire place is run down and in desperate need of attention. Why would we think they’d choose to do so now? I understand that Andersen has a sentimental attachment to the hotel, but it’s time to move on. She has been operating two restaurants — both out of town — one of which has been open 18 months. Doesn’t that imply an “exit strategy”?

I worked with Joe Hanauer during his acquisition of The Pottery Shack and transformation into The Old Pottery Place. At the beginning there was opposition but, now, rightly beloved with resident serving businesses, including one of few remaining brick and mortar bookstores. There could not be a man more devoted to keeping the historic aspects of our community intact … but improved. And with Greg MacGillivray as a named partner… along with James Ray, I’d call them the dream team to take control of the run down hotel, and continue to be fine stewards of our village, as has been Mark Christy with The Ranch. 

Thank goodness The Montage sold Christy and partners the property, or we’d almost certainly have condos on the golf course by now.

Leslie Cunningham

30-year resident of Laguna Beach

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Historic Preservation Task Force: Necessary?

After attending the special City Council meeting on Sat Dec.16 2017 I came away thinking do the residents & property owners of Laguna Beach really need “this”! Only one of eleven of my North Laguna neighbors who I meet as I took a morning walk, thinks it’s a good idea. The other ten gave it the thumbs down.

Just because the vocal minority and the City’s bureaucrats want it doesn’t mean that it’s best for the community! Before the City forms a Task Force lets put the idea on the ballot or at least a survey of all property owners who might be impacted. Give the silent majority a voice, it’s only fair!

Pat Galez

Laguna Beach

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Time to impeach Trump

Fifty or so years ago, a young Donald Trump was determined ineligible to serve in Vietnam due to bone spurs in his feet. Despite having graduated from New York Military Academy, Trump was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his high school classmates march off to war.  

Today, a 70-something Donald Trump serves as President of the United States. As New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently commented, “It is impossible to live your life under the microscope of the presidency and not have your true nature revealed.” That certainly was the case last week when Mr. Trump characterized the homeland of immigrants from Africa and Haiti as @#$%-holes.

That said, I believe it’s time Congress explore the notion of impeaching Mr. Trump. Not so much for what he said about immigrants, but because those testy old bone spurs clearly have gone to his head. As my wise father used to say, “Stay away from that guy. His elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.”  

America deserves a president who is fully capable of executing the requirements of the job.  As a lifelong student of politics, I am shocked Trump’s @#$%-hole comment hasn’t been completely rebuked by the GOP leaders in the House and Senate. I am sorry, but Speaker Paul Ryan’s tepid reaction that Trump’s hateful outburst was “unfortunate” really doesn’t cut it.

It’s time to look in the mirror people.  What does your reflection reveal about you and our country now?  It’s not too late to change what you see.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Hotel Laguna should be kept as pristine as possible

I’ve been here since 1958 and one of the first things that our visitors notice when coming into the town is the Hotel Laguna.  It’s a famous landmark and one that the city should try to keep as pristine as possible.  

With that being said, I believe that it’s possible to remodel the hotel to current day standards and still retain the original look and feel.  Something like the La Valencia in La Jolla comes to mind. I hope that the new owners and city council will consider this.

Gary Zaremba

Laguna Beach

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Tempest in a teapot over Agate: Response to James Pribram’s column on 1/16

As a retired builder, overlapping into my current profession as an enviro-consultant specializing in land use and regulatory compliance, this confrontation is a result of a poorly understood process.

Beachgoers have complained for years about this “Stairway To Nowhere,” as the previous one during certain periods ended well short of the sand: Hence people were stranded, either took a literal “leap of faith,” at risk of physical harm due to that gap distance, or were forced to use either Center or Bluebird.

[The current strategy] was signed off on, as the column notes.

First you must demolish, then create/secure a safe, resilient construction zone...Note these blocks are temporary, not permanent structures, too heavy to roll around willy-nilly, pell-mell.

We used a metaphor during construction activities, especially with demolition elements: Like an omelette, eggs must be broken, moreover at times adjustments are made during removal/installation.

Pribram’s parents live close nearby [and] were probably notified of hearings per CEQA et al, as the Project was also posted at the top of the stairs landing per local/state regulations. I saw and read it, went to the City’s website, and I was satisfied that it was basically a reasonable solution to a long-standing unsafe and unacceptable Coastal Access issue.

As critical as myself & my NGO, Clean Water Now, has been over our 20 year history, in this instance where the City finally responded (albeit we feel slowly, we have frustrated friends and family that demanded a remedy), the installation (after two site visits recently) is acceptable to industry and obviously CCC standards.

Personally, the Project’s not as invasive nor housekeeping as slovenly as alleged: Take photos, document complaints/violations using a GPS stamp that secures time/date/exact location of said evidence.

I think one important lesson is to read posted notifications.

Go online or downtown to the Community Development counter, educate yourself as to the Project, its purpose, its duration, the Best Management Practices proposed, etc.

The Marine environment is important, fragile, so yes, be more vigilant: But educate yourself.

The answers, the reasons for certain logistics that seem unacceptable/irregular might already be there.

Land Use is a boring topic, but it’s where the rubber meets the road regarding planning, where your City is going.

Roger E. Bütow

Founder & Executive Director, CLEAN WATER NOW

Laguna Beach

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Questions for Coast Inn development supporters

I know that everyone in Laguna Beach would like to see the Coast Inn restored to its former glory. It is currently an eyesore in this town. But to the supporters of Chris Dornin’s proposed development, I have a few questions: Do you know the details of what is being proposed? 332 bar/restaurant seats (200 more than previously approved) plus 24 hotel rooms and not one single parking place, which means hundreds of cars will need to park in the surrounding neighborhood every day, and possibly more when multiple events are held at the various venues.  

Do you know that the Boom Boom Room is not even mentioned in the plans? The name of that space has been changed – and there is no dance floor. Have you considered the increased traffic and public safety issues that will result from this intensification of use? Does our town really need to attract more tourists (last year six million people visited Laguna) and should the goal of attracting tourists be put ahead of the residents’ quality of life?  

Did you know that the hotel will look nothing like the historic photos, but rather the design is based on an artist’s rendering? Did you know that Mr. Dornin, the owner/developer of the Coast Inn fought against the rooftop deck on Mozambique because he lived in the surrounding neighborhood and therefore, as a resident, would be adversely affected?  

In his statements to Planning Commission and City Council, Mr. Dornin raised the exact issues as those who currently oppose the intensification of use of his Coast Inn development: parking, traffic, noise, public safety, view, aesthetics, light trespass, and loss of property value in the surrounding neighborhood. (Video of his testimony at PC and CC can be viewed on the Laguna Beach City website.)  

Of course Mr. Dornin has the right to change his position on rooftop decks, but that does not change the impacts and issues of which he is well aware. Would you support the development of this “entertainment complex” if your home was in the neighborhood around the Coast Inn? Please know that I respect everyone’s opinion and their right to support or oppose this project. For the record, my opinion is that the Coast Inn should be restored to its previous use, but the design and the intensification of use should be denied at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on Jan 23.

Terry Meurer

Laguna Beach

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